Appeal Court reinstates ‘explain your wealth’ cases

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice of Appeal Mark Mohammed.

THE COURT of Appeal has reinstated preliminary unexplained wealth orders which allowed police to seize the assets of two families allegedly linked to drug trafficking.

In a ruling on Tuesday, Justice of Appeal Allan Mendonca, Mark Mohammed and Maria Wilson allowed the appeal of the police and remitted the orders to the High Court for further hearing.

The judges were asked by the State to overturn the orders of a High Court judge who reversed her decisions to grant preliminary unexplained wealth orders against the families on the basis that the police did not provide sufficient evidence to sustain the orders.

The orders were initially granted by Justice Carla Brown-Antoine in 2019 on an application by acting Supt Wendell Lucas and acting ASP Richard Taylor against the members of two families.

In 2020, attorneys for the five asked the court to set aside the preliminary unexplained wealth orders and Brown-Antoine did so, revoking her earlier orders.

In both cases, the police argued they had reasonable cause to suspect the wealth of the five was unlawfully obtained as a result of drug trafficking and money laundering.

Some of the five have been charged with varying offences which are pending.

In their ruling, the judges said the police did not need direct evidence as the law provided for officers to have “reasonable suspicion” of ill-gotten wealth.

In analysing the two sets of applications, the Appeal Court held there was ample evidence for the police to ground a reasonable suspicion to suspect the assets of the group were linked to drug trafficking and money laundering.

In their ruling, the judges said Trinidad and Tobago was not alone in its attempt to “combat prolific criminality and its wide-ranging repercussions affiliated with drug trafficking, serious organised crime and money laundering.”

They agreed that some of those problems have been exacerbated because of TT’s close geographical proximity to the coast of South America and had become a well-known transshipment point in international drug smuggling routes.

In submissions at the appeal, Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein submitted all that was required was to establish reasonable grounds for suspicion by the police.

At the appeal, the police were also represented by Gilbert Peterson, SC, Ravi Rajcoomar, Amirah Rahaman, Netram Kowlessar, Kristal Madhosingh and Tiffany Ali.

The families were represented by Jagdeo Singh, Kiel Taklalsingh, Karina Singh, Gary Hannays and Navindra Ramnanan.